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HOWARD COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — The Howard County Sheriff’s Office believes a Russiaville man’s death was the result of a tree trimming accident.

Deputies were called around 4:30 p.m. Thursday on a welfare check near County Road 600 West and State Road 22.

They arrived to find an unconscious man suspended about 40 feet in the air from a bucket truck.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators have identified him as 65-year-old William Lidy.

His autopsy is scheduled for this weekend.

Slave role-playing controversy in Howard County, Indiana

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Some parents in one Howard County school district said they were in shock after they received a letter that their middle schoolers were to participate in a role-playing activity where they would act like slaves.

Western Middle School said students have participated in this activity for the last six years, and this year is the first time parents have reached out with concerns.

The activity is called “Slave Ship,” and students are treated like slaves who have been kidnapped, which occurred from the early 1500s to the mid-19th century.

Parents received a letter detailing the role-playing. The letter says the lesson is designed to be uncomfortable and that the teacher hopes that it creates empathy for others’ heritage and the struggles that they have gone through.

“For them to re-create something that was so devastating and so heartbreaking, it just blew me,” parent Angelicia Hamilton said.

The letter also says students who are role-playing may endure raised voices, loosely bound wrists, threats and hateful speech but will not hear the “N-word.”

“It is 2019. How can you ask a child to be humble about pretending to be a slave?” parent Tawayi Wilson said.

Hamilton added, “Especially for a black child to kneel down and you get yelled at like that.”

Some parents are shocked that the school would allow such a lesson with role-playing that goes too far. Wilson said, “What are the repercussions that are going to come after the play? The next day, you are going to have white kids yelling, saying things, maybe not the N-word but saying things that are going to upset African-American students.”

“So, what are we going to do next? Act out the Holocaust,” Wilson said.

After hearing parents concerns, a follow-up email was sent by the teacher stating that the role-playing portion of the lesson would be canceled.

“I do agree that it is very important to learn all aspects of history but I also believe there are different ways that you can do that without reenactment,” Wilson said.


“Mr. Pax is a creative teacher who works hard to develop lessons that engage his students so they can apply what they have learned to real life experiences. The purpose of his activity, ‘Slave Ship’ was not to offend or dehumanize anyone, but to create empathy and compassion, and to show a glimpse of the harsh reality of slavery.

“Mr. Pax has been doing this activity for the past six to seven years without any concerns expressed. The feedback from his students has been that it was a meaningful activity that helped them to think about the injustices that occurred. However, based on the concerns expressed this year, Mr. Pax will modify the lesson to cover the content and academic standards without the role play.”

Western School District Superintendent Randy McCracken

RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Two Indiana women say a Russiaville business denied them services because they are a married, same-sex couple. 

The owner of Carter Tax Services said, as a Christian, she believes marriage is “between one man and one woman.”

She said she was respectful to the couple but refused to do their taxes. 

“We were both pretty upset about it,” Bailey Brazzel said as she stood next to her wife, Samantha. 

Bailey said she’s gone to the Russiaville office for four years to get her taxes done. Last year, she even brought along her then-girlfriend Samantha. 

“She introduced me as her girlfriend and everything,” Samantha said. 

Samantha and Bailey got married last July. This month, they decided to file a joint tax return only to be denied business at Carter. 

“At first, it was kind of hurt,” Bailey said. “Nothing like that had ever happened to us before, so it was shocking.”

The owner of Carter, Nancy Fivecoate, said in a statement she has several gay clients. She also said she still has gay clients. The owner of the tax services business declined News 8’s request for an interview.

Her statement said, “The LGBT want respect for their beliefs, which I give them. I did not say anything about their lifestyle. That is their choice. It is not my choice. Where is their respect for my beliefs?”

The statement also said that, a few years ago, two other gay clients of hers got married and she told them she could not prepare their taxes. 

“After it just kind of set in a little bit, it was like, we need to do something about this because we are not the only ones this happens to,” Bailey said. 

Bailey said she does not wish anything bad upon the business, but the couple said they hope their story can help create change so other same-sex couples can’t be discriminated against. 

Craig Karpe, an Indianapolis lawyer who is not involved in the case, said there is no Indiana state law that specifically prohibits a business from refusing service to a same-sex couple. 

“It would be difficult to pursue under a civil rights claim at this point in time, with the law standing the way it is,” Karpe said. 

Indianapolis and several other cities have ordinances stating that businesses cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. According to Karpe, Russiaville is not one of those cities. 

“It is hard and it has to bring you together,” Samantha said. “You have to rely on each other.”

The owner of the tax services business declined News 8’s request for an interview.